Toys is a 1992 American comedy-fantasy film, directed and co-written by Barry Levinson, and starring Robin Williams.
Kenneth Zevo, the founder and owner of Zevo Toys, leaves the company to his younger brother General Leland Zevo on his death, as he believes his son Leslie is too immature to run the company. Leland decides that the company's line of traditional toys has no appeal, and instead decides to produce toy tanks and planes with actual weapons in order to sell them to the military. Leslie, his sister Alsatia, and his new love interest Gwen team up to stop Leland.
- The movie's main problem is that it seems to have no idea who its audience is. The simplistic characters and morals make it feel like it's aimed at children, but both Robin Williams' and Michael Gambon's characters spend a lot of time using profanity and telling fart and sex jokes, making it feel like it's targeting older audience members. This results in the movie somehow feeling too mature and too immature all at the same time.
- Leslie tries way too hard to be a rip-off of Willy Wonka, and the Zevo Toys factory likewise feels a lot like Wonka's factory, only it makes toys instead of chocolate.
- It's also obvious that Robin Williams was allowed to ad-lib most of his dialogue. And while he does manage a decent number of funny jokes, a lot of them are pretty awkward and clunky ones that should really have been cut.
- Way too many self-indulgent scenes (including several musical numbers) that pad out the screentime and don't go anywhere. It's not until the halfway point of the movie that the main plot element of Leland deciding to make weaponized toys kicks in.
- The movie's attempts to be whimsical end up undermining the dramatic scenes, most notably Kenneth Zevo's death and funeral.
- The romance between Leslie and Gwen feels really under-developed. For that matter, Gwen herself doesn't add that much to the plot; they could have given her role in the plot to Alsatia, and the only difference would have been that Leslie wouldn't have had a love interest.
- Leland is made out to be the villain as soon as he takes over the factory, because he wants to make toy tanks and warplanes, which Kenneth never allowed to be made because he was a pacifist. From what we see of Zevo Toys' products, however, they're all old-fashioned toys that would have had very limited appeal in 1992. Leland therefore actually comes across as quite reasonable in wanting to diversify the company's product line.
- Even when he starts producing weaponized toys, Leland still comes across as having far more of a point than the writers intended, as these toys would have the advantage of not placing their operators in danger. All that Leslie does is whine about how toys should be whimsical and innocent, completely missing the actual debates that could be had about what Leland's making.
- While LL Cool J gives a good performance as Patrick Zevo, his casting creates a major plot hole. Leland claims that his mother died of a ruptured appendix, but Patrick later finds out that she was killed while acting as Jane Fonda's body double in Vietnam. Leaving aside the whole debate as to whether Fonda was guilty of aiding and abetting the Vietcong (and thus why the U.S. Army would have bothered protecting her in this manner), Patrick's mother must have been a black woman, due to Leland being played by Michael Gambon, a white man. How could anyone expect to pass off a black woman as Jane Fonda?
- The ending doesn't make Leslie look very competent or heroic, as the computer controlling Leland's weaponized toys ends up being destroyed by a stray shot from one of Leland's toys, and then Leland himself is crippled when a malfunctioning toy attacks him. Having Leslie blunder into victory like this doesn't exactly give the impression that he's ready to run the factory.
- There's a pointless twist near the end when Alsatia gets her head blasted off and turns out to actually be an android, who was created to provide companionship for Leslie after his mother died. It turns out that all the characters except for Patrick already knew about this, and Leslie just shrugs and says they can easily fix her (and in the next scene we see that they did), making the twist almost totally irrelevant. Presumably it was intended to explain her odd behavior, but all the movie's characters behave so strangely that Alsatia doesn't seem especially weird by comparison.
- It's also another case where the movie is hurt by its inability to decide who its target audience is. Had it been more firmly targeting adults, then the obvious thing would have been to have Alsatia destroyed, forcing Leslie to finally put his childhood behind him and move on with Gwen. However, such a plot twist would probably have been too upsetting for the younger audience members they were trying to target, resulting in a bizarre plot twist that comes out of nowhere and then never proves relevant to anything.
- A bizarre scene plays over the end credits, with Kenneth Zevo's elephant-shaped tombstone taking off, flying around the countryside and terrifying animals. Not only is there no explanation as to what's going on, the effects used to achieve this are terrible, with the wire holding up the tombstone being extremely visible throughout.
- Amazing production design and visuals.
- The acting is generally pretty good, especially from Michael Gambon.
- Good soundtrack from Hans Zimmer and Trevor Horn.
- The musical numbers are at least well-executed, even if most of them drag on for too long and/or add nothing to the plot.
- Some parts of the storyline are actually quite prescient, and now come across as relevant to the debates around drone warfare.
- A few decent character scenes early on with the members of the Zevo family, before the movie flanderizes Leland into a pure villain.
Toys received middling-to-poor reviews, with a score of 30% at Rotten Tomatoes. It ended up as a box-office bomb, making back less than half of its $50 million dollar budget.